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Apples are not oranges – but bad questions will make you think so

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

While global wave-based country surveys may be asking boring questions, many others are not.

Consider this survey by Pew on why American workers use social media at work. Instead of merely relying on the number of estimated hours and types of social media used or attempting to calculate the internet subscriptions per 100 people in a community, the survey goes ahead and gives respondents a chance to explain their behaviors. Interestingly, a majority use social media to take a “mental” break from work, followed by connecting with family and friends.

Similar results were found by World Wide Web for a different demographic: poor urban women in developing countries. When asked why they access the internet, 97% of them said they used the internet to maintain existing social ties.

Now forgive me for making a leap, but millions of users around the globe “could be” using social media primarily to take breaks or to connect with friends and family. If that is true, it means that a huge majority may not be very interested or active in social campaigns or political participation via social media. In this scenario, the usual largely accepted link between political activity around the world and the number of social media users may require serious readjustment.

 

Quote of the Week: Philip Tetlock

Sina Odugbemi's picture
“Any good political psychologist should have the moral and historical imagination to see how he or she could become almost any ideological creature that has existed, or does exist on the planet. That includes Nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, Isil … There but for the grace of God.”

- Philip Tetlock, a Canadian-American political science writer, currently serving as the Annenberg University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is cross-appointed at the Wharton School of Business and the School of Arts and Sciences.  His research explores a variety of topics, including: the challenges of assessing "good judgment" in both laboratory and real-world settings and the criteria that social scientists use in judging judgment and drawing normative conclusions about bias and error.

He has written several non-fiction books at the intersection of psychology, political science and organizational behavior, including Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction; Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?; Unmaking the West: What-if Scenarios that Rewrite World History; and Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics.  Tetlock is also co-principal investigator of The Good Judgment Project, a multi-year study of the feasibility of improving the accuracy of probability judgments of high-stakes, real-world events.

Abdul Sattar Edhi – One man can change the world

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

It is almost impossible to think of a welfare system without state resources and intervention. But one man, Abdul Sattar Edhi, is single-handedly responsible for creating an unparalleled mini-welfare state system within the state of Pakistan.

In the early 1950s, a young Edhi started begging on the streets of Karachi to buy a battered old van to be used as an ambulance. In 2016, the non-profit Edhi Foundation had over 1800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan – all via public donation. Most Pakistanis will call an Edhi ambulance, rather than a private or state run service in case of an emergency. Edhi’s air ambulances were the first responders when an earthquake struck northern Pakistan in 2008. The reach of Edhi services during emergencies also extends to other parts of South Asia such as Nepal after the recent earthquake.

Over the years, Edhi expanded his work across many areas. His foundation runs homes for women, rehabilitation centers, workshops for skills based learning, dispensaries, soup kitchens, orphanages, welfare centers, missing persons services, refugees assistance, animal center, morgues and burial services including graveyards, child adoption services, and homes for mentally challenged across the country. Thousands of Pakistani children have Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi as parents on their official documentation. Edhi services are accessible and open to all but devoid of religious and governmental support in any monetary form.

In Pakistan, more people will trust the Edhi Foundation with their money than the state with their taxes. Donations come in different forms and from many economic strata of the Pakistani society. Many individuals who enter the job market will donate from few rupees to thousands from their first salaries as an initiation to economic and civic life – this pattern continues for many. It is not unusual for children to donate money to Edhi services out of their pocket monies or eidi (money given to children on Eid by their parents and relatives). Edhi single handedly inspired a culture of kindness, giving, volunteering, and civic mindedness in society often marred by economic or political plights.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Africa is moving toward a massive and important free trade agreement
Washington Post

African heads of state and government officials are meeting this week in Kigali, Rwanda, for the 27th African Union Summit. On their agenda will be taking the next steps to establish a free-trade area that would include all 54 African countries — which could be up and running by the end of 2017. This is news to much of the global community. Here are seven things you need to know about Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA):

Mobile Phone Data Reveals Literacy Rates in Developing Countries
MIT Technology Review

One of the millennium development goals of the United Nations is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. That’s a complex task, since poverty has many contributing factors. But one of the more significant is the 750 million people around the world who are unable to read and write, two-thirds of which are women. There are plenty of organizations that can help, provided they know where to place their resources. So identifying areas where literacy rates are low is an important challenge. The usual method is to carry out household surveys. But this is time-consuming and expensive work, and difficult to repeat on a regular basis. And in any case, data from the developing world is often out of date before it can be used effectively. So a faster, cheaper way of mapping literacy rates would be hugely welcome.
 

Is sport inhumane?

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.” - George Orwell
 
Several years ago, while attending a global sports conference, I noticed that one of the most prominent members of the International Olympic Committee was carrying a small book in French. Knowing that this individual has an inclination toward intellectual escapades, I couldn’t resist asking for the title and author, he replied: Robert Redeker, 2008, “Le Sport Est – il inhumain?” As I had not previously heard of Redeker, I asked some follow-up questions to establish his viewpoint.
 
Robert Redeker is a French writer and philosophy teacher, known for his controversial views on many aspects of humanity with a soft but critical spot for sport as he wrote two additional books dedicated to sport: in 2002, “Le Sport contre les peuples,” and in 2012, “L'Emprise sportive.”
 
For those of us who will be going to Rio to witness the Olympic and Paralympic cauldron being lit amidst hundreds of thousands of spectators during the opening ceremonies, it is also perfect timing for a reflection about the current state of sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Movement. Currently, the deliberations are mostly lead by the media, athletes, coaches, and this time by the World Health Organization due to Zika's unknown long-term impacts.  
 
An ever-increasing number of leaders in sports as well as politics, education, and even religion are starting to pay closer attention to how sports can be a tool to benefit humanity. Critics such as Redeker have argued that it is an inhuman matrix, and that contemporary sport dehumanizes athletes while focusing only on citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger - speed, height, and strength as they are measurable quantities) at the expense of social, societal, behavioral and anthropological development.

Campaign Art: "We’re the Superhumans" celebrates Paralympics

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Back in 2012, in the lead-up to the Summer Paralympic Games in London, the UK’s Channel 4 created a social ad, “Meet the Superhumans”, to raise awareness and understanding of disability in sport but also how truly impressive, stereotype-crushing and fun the Paralympics can be.  The ad was incredibly popular and the channel's live broadcast of the opening ceremony on the night of August 29, 2012, was watched by 11.8 million TV viewers - its largest audience in ten years. The campaign also successfully helped the London 2012 Paralympics become the first Paralympic Games to sell out. 
 
Thus, creating a follow-up ad for the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Brazil was a daunting task. Yet, the sequel, “We’re the Superhumans” is one of the greatest possible sequels. It is three minutes of powerful, fun, and compelling brilliance. It features a range of people with disabilities playing musical instruments, taking part in a range of sporting events, and doing everyday activities like eating cereal or filling up the gas tank of a car to the tune of Sammy Davis Jr.’s 'Yes I Can'.

There are one-legged dancers and blind musicians as well as a rock climber with one arm, a rally driver who steers cars with his feet and children with prosthetic limbs playing football and bouncing on a trampoline.

The film acknowledges the challenges that disabled people face on a daily basis, but it also shows that disabled people are capable of doing both extraordinary and banal tasks as well as any able-bodied person could.
 

We're The Superhumans | Rio Paralympics 2016 Trailer

Source: Channel 4 (UK Paralympic Broadcaster)

Real social innovation needs empathy and understanding- podcast with Richard Hull

Enrique Rubio's picture

In this podcast, Richard Hull says that real social innovation needs empathy and understanding of the people and context upon which we want to make a difference. Richard is the Director of the Master’s Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths in the University of London. One of the things that I found most interesting about his program is the motto of thinking of social entrepreneurship “outside of the box”, which Richard explains during the podcast.

He describes the strong connection that exists between creativity, which is the foundation of the program, and social entrepreneurship. Particularly, even though there’s a lot of innovation, creativity, and technology that is very visible, he says that there’s a lot of work going on quietly in the background, and it is important to understand its lessons, too.

Richard talks about the example of participatory market development approaches, where the design of innovation revolves around the poorest and most marginalized people. He mentions how some western technologies are dumped in developed markets, becoming totally inappropriate. Richard highlights that it is fundamental to create the innovations with the people who are going to end up using them, rather than imposing on them.

How Virgin Atlantic used behavior change communication to nudge pilots to use less fuel, reduce emissions

Roxanne Bauer's picture

The idea that there are untapped opportunities for improving the energy efficiency of individuals and homes is common.  Energy efficient windows, lightbulbs, and appliances are sold worldwide.  People are advised to “turn off the lights when you leave a room,” and schemes have been introduced to reduce energy consumption by tapping into social psychology. But what about large firms? Or entire industries? Companies, after all, want to minimize costs to save money, don’t they?  How about airlines, whose bottom lines are subject to the international price of fuel?
 
It seems rational, but the International Energy Agency does not mention the aviation sector in its Energy Efficiency Market Report, nor does Kinsey in their comprehensive catalog of potential energy efficiency measures. Most reports (that I could find) focus on regulation of commercial enterprises.  This is a shame. The environmental impact of aviation is clear: aircraft engines emit heat, noise, particulates, CO2, and other harmful gases that contribute to climate change. Despite more fuel-efficient and less polluting turbofan and turboprop engines for airplanes as well as innovations in air frames, engines, aerodynamics, and flight operations, the rapid growth of air travel in recent years has contributed to an increase in total aviation pollution. In part, this is because aviation emissions are not subject international regulation thus far and because the lack of global taxes on aviation fuel results in lower fares than one would see otherwise.
 
Interestingly, although perhaps not surprisingly, the National Bureau of Economic Research just released a working paper that suggests airlines’ fuel consumption can be reduced if they “nudge” the pilots to use less fuel, using behavioral interventions.

Quote of the Week: Jürgen Habermas

Sina Odugbemi's picture
Jurgen Habermas"Today, however, the increasingly high-pitched appeal by politicians to "our values" sounds ever emptier – alone the confusion of "principles", which require some kind of justification, with "values", which are more or less attractive, irritates me beyond all measure. We can see our political institutions being robbed more and more of their democratic substance during the course of the technocratic adjustment to global market imperatives. Our capitalist democracies are about to shrink to mere façade democracies."

- Jürgen Habermas, a German sociologist and philosopher whose work focuses on the political domain and rationality. He is best known for his theories on communicative rationality and the public sphere.  Associated with the Frankfurt School, his work also focuses on the foundations of critical social theory, the analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy, human freedom within modern society, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, and contemporary politics-- particularly German politics. 

Media research and boring questions: What do global surveys miss?

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

In the past decade, much effort and attention has gone into media (including traditional types and digital technologies) research because the media are considered pivotal for social change and fundamental to human rights. Although several approaches exist to conduct media research; many researchers and policy makers use findings from publicly available survey data to conduct analyses, evaluate and make predictions. This data is often generated by large national or global (often wave-based) surveys that use random sampling techniques to interview respondents.

Given that the media and its effects generate so much interest, you would think that interesting and thought-provoking questions would be asked on media usage and user perceptions in these surveys. Surprisingly, that is not the case. Questions that tap into versatility, scope, ideas, usage and media perceptions in global survey research are quite uncommon. Interestingly, many surveys actually only incorporate items regarding media sources and usage frequencies alone.

Consider two primary sources of global attitudes and values research involving several countries: World Values Survey (WVS) and Afrobarometer.

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